Hi Valentina, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been wonderful, thank you! I was traveling recently, back to the UK (Scotland), to gather up some more inspiration for my next album. (Which we can talk about a little bit later) .
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Dream Dance”?
Sure, I’d love to. Dream Dance was very inspired by one of my favorite artists, Dead Can Dance. (People who have heard it have also likened it to Portishead, also, which of course makes me very happy.) ???? The song is the first song on the album with words, and it is designed to deepen the listeners’ experience of dropping into another world as they take in the entire album. This song had so many iterations as it evolved while I was creating it; I think the final mix was version 36! There are so many layers to this piece, from the panned “whooshing” effects, to the Bohdran drums, the sitar, the strings, the multitracks of vocals, the kit drums and percussion, the acoustic guitar… It was a massive recording, arranging, and mixing puzzle to get all the balances exactly as I heard them in my mind’s ear. I wanted to create something that gave a sense of the universality of this Dream Dance experience (called Life) that we’re all living in, which is why I mixed in a number of different World music elements.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Yes! I like to paint, and I was reading a book called “Color” by Victoria Finlay. In it, she travels the world seeking out the original sources of color used by artists. The first chapter is about the color ochre, and she traveled to Australia and the Aboriginal cultures to learn about the source of this color. In the course of this chapter, of course, she discussed the Aboriginal Dreamtime, which I was obviously familiar with. But there was something about reading this book at this time and her discussion of it that triggered something within me, and the phrase “Dream Dance” bubbled to the surface. I realized that we were all living our own complex, magnificent, and co-creative Dream Dance. That human beings are drawn to create and build. For some it is their children. For artists, it is their art. And through the course of that Dream Dance, we all do this in an effort to connect with each other and with the source of Life, itself. I went to my lyricist for this particular song, Gentry Bronson, and presented those ideas to him, and he came back to me with the beautiful lyrics that he wrote. Then I sat down to start piecing the song together in the studio.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Absolutely! I currently have a video out for this song on my VEVO and Nymphya YouTube channels. And I am extremely proud of it. We shot this video in two phases: the first shoot was at an abandoned silk mill in my hometown… A gorgeous, majestic brick building from the turn of the century. (I find something moving and beautiful in the decay of abandoned buildings and ruins). And this building spoke to me very clearly as a poignant representation of the creations that humans build. The second phase was about 6 months later in Ireland. We traveled to the ancient sites and shot video on a number of them, again bringing in this idea of the timeless drive for us to build and leave our mark. Consequently, the visuals in this video are (if I may so) stunning! We shot at Skellig Michael, the monastery island off the Southwest coast of Ireland, which was settled in 500 BC by monks, and which was featured in the recent Star Wars film as the refuge for Luke Skywalker. We shot at the Uragh Stone Circle on the Beara Peninsula, and at the Aughnacliffe Dolmen, which we happened to stumble upon. Just being in each of these ancient sites was a peak life experience.
Why naming the album after this track in particular?
Since this track is all about the act of being alive and creating, as well as being alive in our own Dream Dance, and since the album, itself, takes you into a sonic world all its own, it simply made sense.
What made you want to make a conceptual record?
I think it is probably my years of performing as a professional theater and Opera performer, as well as having a love and affinity for concept albums in my youth that profoundly affected me, such as the B side of “Hounds of Love” by Kate Bush. I wanted to create something that went beyond just a collection of songs that you listen to. And it’s starting to look like my next album will also be some sort of concept album…!
How was the recording and writing process?
This recording and writing process was extraordinarily cathartic, transformational, empowering, inspirational, and at times excruciating. I built my own studio, which in itself was a culmination of a lifelong dream, with the intention to be able to finally compose and create music the way I wanted to. So part of this writing and recording process was discovering exactly what that was! Generally speaking, what I learned about my process is: I get an idea for a theme for what I want the song to be about. Then I write the lyrics (in the cases that Gentry didn’t). I also snatch phrases of music and grooves that float through my brain at various times and sing them into my mobile phone. (Sometimes they come at 5 in the morning while I’m asleep, sometimes while I’m driving, sometimes while I’m just walking around). Then I sit down and find a rhythm track in my library that sparks my imagination. I lay that in, and begin piecing together the song with the snatches of phrases from my notes, or new inspirations that come through. I lay in instrumental patches and various pads, or use keyboards with MIDI for different sounds, or my guitar, and ultimately lay in the vocals. I had TWO complete studio crashes during the course of recording this album, which set me back at least 6 months… we had to rescue all the files from the void of cyberspace, and reconstruct the operating system. Aaaah! It was intense. But for me, spending time in the studio is my greatest joy. I literally lose Time, and can look up many hours later to realize how hungry or thirsty I am. It can be challenging to find stretches of 10 hours to set aside to dive in and immerse myself. Working in stretches of two to three hours can be very productive, but also frustrating, because you’re just starting to get going, and then you need to stop to attend to the mundane world. I also want to note for this project the inestimable contribution that bassist Ray Schaeffer made. I sent him the basic tracks of “Wasteland” because I realized that I don’t play bass and I’m not good enough to fake it with MIDI or loops. (Let’s face it: To me, the bass is one of the most important elements of any tune). When he sent me back his ideas that he had recorded at his studio, they were so close to exactly what I had heard in my mind’s ear that I knew that we would make a great team. And then it turned out that Ray is also a gifted mixer and masterer, so we spent countless hours together in the studio crafting the bass parts, as well as all the mixes. The depth of love and gratitude I have for Ray’s contribution knows no bounds.
What role does California play in your writing?
I literally moved to California so that I could be part of San Francisco, which spawned the San Francisco sound of Jefferson Airplane that inspired me so much. And, in retrospect, although considered Ethereal / Folktronica Baroque Pop, my music is also very Bohemian and eclectic, a vibe which is very resonant with the N. California coastal scene. And, the second to last tune on the album, called “Goin’ Home”, is an Alt-Folk type of song, which I wrote specifically as an homage to the strong Roots / Americana movement that is here in Sonoma County.
Does acting influence your music and the other way around?
Absolutely! And when people have seen me perform, they have noted how theatrical my presentation tends to be. What acting has done for my music is caused me to become even more connected to the authenticity of what I’m expressing; to dig deep into the raw truth. To not be afraid of who I truly am, and to recognize that the more I bring forth my personal, unadorned authenticity, the more it touches people on the universal level. That has been an extraordinarily powerful discovery that I’ve made in these last few years.
Was this always meant to be a tribute your fiancée or how did that come about?
This project actually began as a live performance concept piece about human relationships. But then it morphed into its own album that stands on its own. And, I didn’t realize at first how much of it was about losing Keith, until I looked up and stepped back, and recognized the arc of what was happening, to see that it was the classic tale of the hero’s journey. You set out, full of enthusiasm (“Entering the Glade” and “Over the Hedge”), you get onto your path (“Dream Dance”), experience a challenge or loss (“Broken”), suffer (“Beautiful Wound”), descend to the Underworld (“Howl” and “Wasteland “), process that shift (“Heart on a Shelf” and “Chrysalis”), return to the surface, renewed (“We Carry On”), and you are redeemed (“Goin’ Home”), to begin the next journey, spiraling upward. (“Spiral”). I saw the arc and pattern before the entire piece was completed, and realized at that point that I needed to write certain songs to complete the story, (which were “Beautiful Wound” and “Spiral”). So, it just oozed out on its own to be a tribute to loss and recovery.
What aspect of love and loss did you get to explore on this record?
I would say the strongest theme around that that’s explored on this album is plumbing the depths of your pain, and yet being able to ascend again into redemption. It’s really a message of Hope, in the end.
How would you describe your fans?
My fans are this incredible group of people from all over the world who are drawn to the power of magic and the mystical. They all seem to understand how this music draws you into another world, so are the type of person that really craves and enjoys that sort of experience. They also tend to love music that shows off female vocals, and is complex, yet approachable. We assemble on my Facebook page, (www.facebook.com/nymphya) and Instagram (@nymphyamusic) which are my primary outlets to be in touch with all of them in real time, aside from email. I absolutely adore them!
Any plans to hit the road?
Well, I just got an offer to play at a festival in Australia. So I am looking at that, and evaluating the logistics. One of the biggest ones is: the band. Since I recorded the majority of the tracks on this album myself, I would need to assemble a band to take it on the road. So then it comes down to finding the right musicians and rehearsing the material to get the right sound that I would want for a live show.
What else is happening next in Nymphya’s world?
I am busy starting my next album which is called, for now, “Through the Looking Glass”. I was inspired greatly by “White Rabbit” by Grace Slick, and so I thought it only apropos that I take the next book in that series and write a song based on that. She wrote “White Rabbit” as a commentary on the culture of her time. So my “Through the Looking-Glass” is all about the culture of our time: our narcissistic society; the reflections of ourselves that we see in our social media and our mobile devices that keep us glued to them, addicted to them. And so, the other songs on the album are then further explorations of what we see when we go Through the Looking-Glass of ourselves, a subject that I believe we all find infinitely fascinating!